As we prepare for the feast of Saint John Paul II, we invite you to continue on this pilgrimage through our permanent exhibit, A Gift of Love: The Life of Saint John Paul II. We hope you will walk through each of the nine galleries with us, so that you can get a taste of the spiritual and informational journey that awaits you here at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine.
This week we will explore the eighth gallery: A Great Gift. This gallery covers the end of St. John Paul II’s life, and it invites pilgrims to reflect on two themes in his teachings: the gift of the Eucharist and the renewal of the priesthood.
The Eucharist is the greatest of gifts, for through it the Incarnation is made present to all mankind. It is the gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Connected with this, is the gift of the priesthood. Priests give up everything for the Gospel, and so the priesthood is a form of union with Christ's sacrificial gift of Himself to the Church and to the world.
In contemplating the gift of the Eucharist, pilgrims are invited to reflect on how St. John Paul II’s whole life, including his suffering and death, took the form of gift to God and to the Church. Visitors journey through the Holy Father’s struggle with Parkinson’s disease up to the final hours of his life, when thousands kept vigil with him in St. Peter’s Square. This has been called St. John Paul II’s “last encyclical,” in which, like Christ, he loved the Church “to the end.” Fittingly, the end came on April 2, 2005—the vigil of the Feast of Divine Mercy, which was a feast he himself instituted.
As pilgrims reflect on St. John Paul II’s illness and final days, when it was difficult for him to walk or even to speak, they are reminded of the call to persevere daily in faith, hope and love, even in the face of obstacles and suffering. Ponder this as you continue on pilgrimage with us.
St. John Paul II, Pray for Us!